One of the most respected, but possibly overlooked genre is the shoot-em up (also known as schmup). While incredibly addicting, current times have evolved the genre to take a more explorative take on worlds, which in turn slowed down development from once hot franchises in the market. R-Type, one of the staples – has returned after a long hiatus from consoles, bringing us back to basics with a refinement of gameplay and content alike in R-Type Final 2. This new selection has been delivered after successful crowdfunding campaigns, but does it do enough to scratch the itch? Let’s find out.
Story elements have never been a strong point of any side-scrolling shooter, but alas, there is one present for the sake of progression within Final 2. This plot follows the story from Operation Last Dance, putting the player in control of a ship and letting them go straight to work. Sure, there isn’t some stellar narrative, but the brief moments of attempted storytelling work well enough. Like most arcade shooters of this type, the world itself is so condensed that you can form an understanding of the environment through organic level exploration, but if you are like myself, you probably just enjoy plopping down, picking a ship, and taking off to mindlessly take out waves of enemies. Final 2 provides that sense of satisfaction, and while I feel there definitely should be some fleshing out in this area – the gameplay is ultimately the reason most fans will be interesting in diving in here.
It has been a long time since I have played any R-Type before Final 2, so I definitely went in with a foggy recollection of what to expect. This franchise is known for slowing down the pace of a “bullet hell” experience, which in theory should create a layer of strategy that would make up for the slower pace of gameplay. Instead, Final 2 kind of sputters a bit due to some confusing design choices, going from hectic to calm without warning, making for an engine that feels like it is hiccuping in difficulty to create a false sense of spontaneity. It’s not crippling and doesn’t make or break the experience, but it does add some needlessly frustrating moments due to an odd checkpoint system in place.
Maybe I am just spoiled now by instantly re-spawning ships, or maybe R-Type was just sticking to its own heritage. Either way, the end result provides a bit of a mixed bag where it matters, as I found myself wanting to take more frequent breaks from the game due to the tedious nature presented. There is a lot going on in each stage (five total) and most are rather lengthy with a motley assortment of foes. Players can of course upgrade their ship on the go, acquiring power-ups and techs that offer extra offensive and defensive elements alike. Even with those upgrades, that checkpointing ritual present here seems to rear its head a bit more often than it should, as the environmental hazards that also accompany each difficulty add intensity, but don’t do enough to actually provide a natural sense of change. Think of it like a volume switch. Most would expect when you up the difficulty, more enemies and hazards would appear. Final 2 seems to just paste in new obstacles that change the way the entire stage feels, so instead of a gradual progression, it feels like more assets were placed in a stage for the simple sake of difficulty.
In a standard shoot-em up, fine. That works on paper. For a game pulling towards trial-and-error progression, you have an experience that just feels clunky and rushed. On the plus side, the customization is aplenty, and players will have a lot to collect that will later start to change their sessions in a positive way. It just takes a bit too long to get there.
Visually, R-Type also has a bit of a lukewarm presentation. The environments look great. The ships look great and the animations create an intense aura of chaos. The 3D art style however with the 2D backdrops don’t blend very well, and personally brought back memories of Mighty No. 9. In a screenshot, this style looks fine. When all the cogs are moving, it looks a bit cheap and for a namesake like R-Type, I would expect to see more refinement to blend such well-designed models with the stages you traverse.
The soundtrack is the star here. Even though the gameplay and visuals leave a lot to be desired, the music within Final 2 is great. Maybe that is the issue thinking back, as the sometimes moody, sometimes rocking beats set a pace that the world you are in doesn’t always feel a part of. Regardless, the sound team did a stellar job and fans of the franchise will be thrilled to know that they will have a toe-tapping selection of beats and nostalgic effects to tickle their eardrums as they trudge through.
R-Type Final 2 at its core isn’t a bad game. In fact, there are moments I had a ton of fun as there were some intense sections that got me to the edge of my seat several times. It’s the rubber-banding of difficulty and odd design choices (both visually and mechanically) that take away from this otherwise solid shooter, which seems to be always ready to offer a bevy of content despite not being tied together properly. You won’t hate it, but I do think most will find it to be an odd duck that comes off as a niche title in its own niche market. It is always pleasant to see the rebirth of an old friend and Final 2 doesn’t necessarily commit sins to the genre, but it is one adventure to definitely test the waters with before you make the plunge into due to its polarizing offerings.
Capsule Computers review guidelines can be found here.